They’re trying to ‘Palinize’ Marco Rubio

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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On Twitter yesterday, some of my conservative friends beat me up for writing about Marco Rubio’s comments to GQ about the Earth’s age.

Their point was that it was a silly question (it was.) And that it was feeding a liberal meme (it is.)

But the notion that this means we should ignore it is also silly.

In the heat of a campaign, it might be wise to parry such questions  — and pivot to talking about your strengths. This is called staying on message. But I’m not on a campaign. And the election is over.

If there were ever a time to have a serious conversation about such topics, it is now. Sweeping controversial topics under the rug obviously won’t help.

Conservatives have another point — which is hypocrisy. Remember the time Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson worried that putting more Marines on Guam could cause it to capsize?

And as Slate points out that Barack Obama has ducked a similar question to the one Rubio dodged. But the “they do it too!” argument isn’t an excuse to avoid actually coming up with a coherent worldview that squares God and science.

Because conservatives have willfully allowed this to metastasize — liberals have effectively cast Republicans as the anti-science party. For this reason, incidents that seem to confirm this narrative are especially hurtful.

Mark Halperin nailed it on “Morning Joe”:

“There’s one area where Democrats are really far ahead of Republicans right now. Science and technology, no. It’s doing this thing that Democrats failed to do in 2000, to stop George W. Bush, which is really, really early on using the left-wing Freak Show to define anyone who’s thinking of running for President, as quickly as possible, in negative terms on Twitter, on cable, on the Internet. They’re all over this Rubio thing because they want to control his image in a negative way and they did it this cycle too. They went after Romney early, it really hurt him. And they’re doing it now.”

And so, this is a strategy. Like Sarah Palin in 2008, Democrats view Marco Rubio as a major threat — not just for one or two elections — but someone who could undermine their advantage among the college educated, the young, and Latinos. Like Palin in ’08, he is viewed as an existential threat.

And just like Palin — whom they feared — they wan’t to destroy his credibility; to make him a joke.

For obvious reasons, it is vital that Rubio — and, in fact, all conservatives going forward — be able to articulate a serious conservative worldview that doesn’t fit the “anti-science” stereotype. (This is part of what I mean when I talk about cosmopolitan conservatism.)

Rubio might think he’s just getting his feet wet, but it’s “game on.”

Matt K. Lewis